Intel (NSDQ: INTC) has been outside the burgeoning market for tablets, but plans to take a stake in one of the more interesting tablet-makers, according to reports. Intel Capital, the investment arm of the chip maker, is set to announce a $30 million investment in Kno, a startup that focuses on building tablets for educational customers.
Bloomberg reported that the announcement could come as soon as next week, while All Things D reported that Intel’s interest in the startup extends beyond a financial investment. It also plans to license the hardware design used by Kno to Intel hardware partners, presumably in hopes of jump-starting the development of tablets using Intel’s chips. Kno would then focus on software design, according to All Things D.
Intel was a player in the first round of Tablet PCs launched by Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), but the more successful second-generation of the product has been dominated by rival mobile chip designer ARM, which also dominates the smartphone market. ARM doesn’t make chips itself, but licenses core designs to companies like Qualcomm (NSDQ: QCOM), Samsung, and Texas Instruments who then build the chips inside modern phones and tablets.
And while there’s nothing Intel would like more at this point than to figure out a way to get its processors into tablets, virtually every piece of mobile software is crafted to run atop the ARM instruction set, as opposed to the x86 instruction set that Intel controls and that dominates the PC market. Even Microsoft plans to release a future tablet-friendly version of Windows that runs on ARM chips, bowing to market realities.
Kno has gotten a lot of attention for its focus on the educational market but does not appear to have actually sold a lot of hardware. It just recently revamped its Web site to remove a lot of information previously displayed as recently as early this week, according to Google’s cache, replacing it with a single page that teases an upcoming announcement. Sounds like something is definitely in the works.